Fast Food

New Port Richey business in permit peril after wrong permits pulled

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — A New Port Richey business owner said they are getting the run around to re-open their business after a permitting fiasco.

Monique Wells and her husband opened, Lily’s Tacos To Go during the height of the pandemic in 2021.

The business was slow to pick up, but when it did they were bustling with lines out the door and sales hugging half a million dollars.

That was last year.

Fast forward to now and the door is locked and the windows are now taped with a stop work order.

Since June, the business has been closed all because of permitting issues.

As a new business owner, Wells admitted it was a learn as you go process.

Even with some issues at her rental before they moved in, she signed this commercial lease.

“When we first opened we had definitely the AC which they stated in there that they would install one in the lease,” Wells said.

The lease states the landlord would install a central AC unit on the premises.

He did, but Pasco County documents show the permit was pulled as a residential permit even though it is a commercial building.

This happened on two different occasions.

On September 12, 2022, a residential mechanical permit was pulled for the AC change out.

Four days later, a residential electrical permit was pulled for electrical work.

“It got approved and inspected by Pasco County. I don’t know how they were able to pull a residential permit for that because it is a commercial property, but they did,” Wells said.

Pasco County confirmed Lily’s Tacos To Go is indeed permitted as commercial.

In a statement, they said:

“Lily’s Tacos is classified as a commercial property. The business was cited in June, 2022 for ‘work without a permit.’ Private contractors, working at Lily’s Tacos, went online and pulled ‘quick’ residential permits [] for electrical and mechanical work at the business – bypassing the commercial permitting process. The business owners applied for the appropriate commercial permitting earlier this month, and our officials are working with them to help them understand what needs to be corrected in order to finalize the work and to satisfy the citation.”

Pasco County officials said this was allowed because their online system does not restrict applications on various land uses and ultimately the responsibility falls on the property owner.

ABC Action News contacted the landlord who directed us to his attorney. The attorney has yet to return our call.

As a result of the back and forth Wells can’t re-open her business.

Each day is costing her money.

She estimates the business has lost around $200,000 dollars, and she’s had to let her 14 employees go.

Most recently, she sold her car to try to stay afloat.

“We really feel like we got taken advantage of like brand new business owners. Small business owners because they knew that we were so excited and desperate to get in here,” Wells said. “If nothing gets done here we don’t know what we’re going to do. We’re going to have to sell everything and it’s going to break my heart.”

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